Thursday, December 27, 2012

Caramelized Roasted Butternut Cubes

Thanks to my sister for this recipe.  The squash come out sweetly browned with the help of just a little bit of brown sugar, with a wonderful texture.  Slightly addictive.  Best made with butternut because its smooth skin makes for easy peeling compared with many squashes.


1 large butternut squash (about 2 lbs)
Walnut oil (or substitute canola)
1-2 Tbsp brown sugar
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Cut the squash in half the long way and scoop out the seeds.  Peel the skin with a vegetable peeler, making sure to get down to where the flesh starts to be more orange.  Cut the squash into 1/2-inch cubes.

Place the cubed  squash in a large bowl.  Drizzle with walnut oil and sprinkle with brown sugar, salt, and pepper.  Toss well to mix and coat thoroughly.

Spread the squash in a single layer in a baking pan or two.  Roast for 30-45 minutes, turning the cubes over once or twice.  Take them out when they are nicely caramelized in places but before they cement themselves to the pan.

Serve hot or room temperature.

Serves about 8.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Maple Mustard Glaze for Ham

We had our usual holiday ham for Christmas, from Hager's this year.  My sister and I put together this glaze, which was delicious.  Sweet but not too sweet, tempered by tangy vinegar and mustard.  This would also work well to toss with cubed squash or sweet potatoes for roasting.

1/3 cup maple syrup, preferably grade B (dark)
2 Tbsp cider vinegar
1-2 Tbsp spicy brown mustard
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan and cook over medium heat, whisking until smooth.  Simmer until somewhat reduced, then refrigerate until ready to use.

Makes enough for one 10+ pound ham.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Cranberry-Lime Braised Pork Chops

This came of an inspiration to use up the last of the cranberry sauce left in the fridge from Thanksgiving.  But since you probably don't have the same thing in your fridge, it's still easy to make from scratch.

3 good sized pork chops
1 1/2 tsp salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Olive oil
1/2 - 3/4 cup Cranberry Sauce with Lime
1 1/4 - 1 1/2 cups chicken broth, warm

Get out the chops an hour or so before you plan to start cooking them, if you can manage it. Combine the salt and black pepper and mix well. Sprinkle this all over the chops and let sit for a while.

Preheat a braising pan or large skillet over medium heat for a few minutes to get it nice and evenly hot. Add just a little olive oil and turn to the heat to medium-high. Place the chops in the pan, close together but not overlapping. Cook without touching for 2-3 minutes, until nicely browned on one side. Turn over and cook on the other side for another 2-3 minutes. Remove the chops to a plate. 

Stir together the cranberry sauce and chicken broth, then add to the hot pan and deglaze it, scraping up all the browned bits stuck to the bottom, which will be full of flavor. Simmer the sauce over medium heat until reduced somewhat, then add the chops back in. They should be no more than about halfway covered with liquid. Turn to the heat to low and simmer for 10-12 minutes, turning the chops once halfway through. Remove from liquid and let rest for a few minutes, then serve.

The braising liquid is delicious. Spoon a little over each chop when serving, and if desired, also over mashed potatoes, polenta, or whatever other accompaniment you have.

Serves 3.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Simple Bi Bim Bap (Korean Rice Bowl with Veggies and Egg)

Bi Bim Bap is Korean comfort food: a bowl of white rice topped with simply cooked veggies, meat if you want, and an egg or two, plus chili sauce and a bit of soy sauce.  There are many variations on it and you can use virtually whatever vegetables or meat you like, depending on what's in season and available.  Right now, for instance, you could substitute other greens for the napa cabbage or add some shredded carrot cooked in a similar manner.  This is a simple version with no meat.  Kim chi is great as a condiment or on the side.

1 1/2 cups uncooked short grain white rice
Water
2 Tbsp sesame oil
8-10 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium head napa cabbage, sliced into ribbons
1 tsp rice vinegar
1-2 eggs per diner
Asian chili sauce
Soy sauce

Cook the rice however you normally do (I use a steamer).  While it is cooking, assemble the rest of the dish.

Heat the sesame oil in a large skillet.  Add the garlic and saute for 1-2 minutes.  Add the napa cabbage and stir fry until tender but not too soft.  Remove from heat and set aside.

Bring a large, shallow-ish pot of water to a simmer.  Crack each egg into a small cup and gently slide it into the water.  Cook over low heat for 3-4 minutes, then remove each egg with a slotted spoon.

When the rice is cooked, assemble each bowl: a good quantity of rice on the bottom, then add the cabbage and an egg or two.  Drizzle with chili sauce and soy sauce at the table.

Serves 4-6.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Sausage Stew with Roasted Garlic and Kale

Roasted garlic adds a nice depth of flavor to this hearty stew, but if you don't have any on hand feel free to just saute some garlic along with the onion.  Lacinato (or "dinosaur") kale is nice here, but use whatever you have.  Serve this with cornbread on the side or, if you like, serve it over polenta or even pasta.

1 lb hot Italian sausage (substitute sweet if you like), casings removed
1 large onion, diced
3 cups chopped or crushed tomatoes (canned, or thawed if frozen)
3-4 cups cooked kidney beans
Cloves from 2 heads of roasted garlic
6-8 cups kale, center ribs cut out and leaves cut into thin ribbons
1 tsp whole fennel seeds
Salt and pepper to taste

Brown the sausage in a Dutch oven or other large pot.  Pour off excess fat, then add the onion and saute for 2-3 minutes over medium-high heat.  Add all other remaining ingredients and cook over medium heat, stirring  frequently, until the kale is tender.  Taste and adjust seasonings.

Serves 4-6.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Ginger-Lime Beef Stir-Fry

Did you know that ginger is grown right here in the Valley?  The folks at Old Friends Farm in Amherst grow it and harvest it young.  Among other places, it's available for sale at Green Fields Market.

This quick stir-fry has the flavors of Southeast Asia.  Serve over rice, maybe cooked with coconut milk.

Canola oil
1/4 cup minced ginger root
6-8 cloves garlic, minced
2-3 red bell peppers, thinly sliced (frozen is fine)
1 1/2 - 2 lbs cooked steak, sliced thin
Salt to taste
1 medium lime, in quarters or eighths

Heat some canola oil in a wok or large skillet.  Add the ginger, garlic, and peppers and saute for 2-3 minutes.  Add the steak and toss to coat well with the seasonings.  Stir fry just long enough to heat through.  Add salt to taste, then sprinkle with the juice of one quarter of the lime and toss again.

Serve hot over rice.  Sprinkle with additional lime juice at the table, giving each diner a piece of lime with which to do so.

Serves 4-6.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Cranberry Sauce with Lime

Just made this for Thursday.  Cranberry and lime make a nice flavor combination.  While straight up cranberry sauce is delicious on its own, I usually like to add a little dash of something - more ideas here.

1/2 lb whole cranberries, rinsed and picked over
Zest of one lime
1/2 - 3/4 cup sugar
Splash of water

Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan.  Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the berries have all popped and the sauce has thickened to a consistency you like.  Remove from heat, let cool, and refrigerate until ready to serve.  Sauce will keep for at least several days in the fridge.

Serves about 6.

Creamy Squash Soup with Roasted Garlic

This soup is simple and understated but rich, smooth, and elegant with a gorgeous golden color.  If you want to punch up the flavor some more, you can double the quantity of roasted garlic.  Cook the squash ahead of time by roasting or steaming and, of course, roast the garlic ahead of time too (I usually do a few heads at once and use it over the next few weeks).

Olive oil
1 large shallot, finely chopped
6 cups cooked mashed winter squash
1 head roasted garlic, peeled
4-6 cups chicken stock (or vegetable stock for a vegetarian version)
1-2 Tbsp dry sherry
1/2 - 1 cup cream
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat a little olive oil in a soup pot.  Add the shallot and saute over medium head for 2-3 minutes.  Add the squash and garlic and mix with the shallots.  Add 4 cups of stock and stir well, then puree the soup with an immersion blender (or do it in batches in a regular blender, then return to the pot).  Add additional stock if desired, to reach a consistency that you like - bearing in mind that you will still be adding cream.  Stir in the sherry and cream until well blended, then add salt and pepper to taste.

For an elegant presentation, add a small swirl of cream to the top of each bowl for serving.

Serves 4-6.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Apple Cider Braised Beef with Celeriac

Tart apple cider makes for a sweet but not too sweet, tangy braising liquid, perfect for fall.  If you don't have access to a tart cider (I used the Vintage blend from Clarkdale Fruit Farms), substitute beef stock for part of the cider and add a little cider vinegar at the end if desired.  I used beef shanks, but the recipe would work for any good braising cut - short ribs, brisket, or anything else you'd use for pot roast.  While you could substitute other root vegetables for the celeriac, I recommend using it because the texture and flavor work really well cooked in the cider.  You can serve this over egg noodles or mashed potatoes, or serve it like a stew with some good bread for dipping.

2-3 lbs beef ( such as shanks, short ribs, brisket, etc)
Canola oil
Salt and pepper
1 large tart apple, peeled, cored and cut into chunks
1 medium onion, in wedges
1 large celeriac, peeled and cut into chunks
3 cups tart apple cider
Beef stock (if needed)
1 Tbsp spicy brown mustard

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.  Lightly coat the beef on all sides with oil, then sprinkle generously with salt and pepper.  Brown in the oven for 10 minutes on each side.  (You can also do this on the stovetop, but I personally find it too smoky.)

Heat a little more canola oil in a Dutch oven.  Add the apple, onion, and celeriac and brown them a bit over high heat, stirring often.  Add the browned beef, then pour in the apple cider.  Add beef stock if needed to bring the level of the liquid such that it covers the beef most but not all of the way.  Stir in the mustard.

Bring the braise to a boil, then reduce heat to very low and simmer for at least 2 hours.  When ready to serve, take the beef out of the pot and cut into serving sized pieces, removing any chunks of bone.  Mash the apple chunks with the back of a spoon.  Serve the beef with plenty of liquid and chunks of celeriac.

Serves 4-6.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Pizza with Pear, Bacon, and Roasted Eggplant Sauce

An array of complementary flavors and textures here, yum!  If you don't have pureed eggplant available,  you can skip it.  You'll be missing a flavor and texture element, but the pizza will still be good.

1 14-inch pizza crust, preferably whole wheat
Olive oil
1 cup Roasted Eggplant Puree with Olive Oil
3-4 oz. shredded mozzarella
1 large pear, cored and sliced 1/8 - 1/4-inch thick
1 small shallot, minced
4 sliced cooked bacon, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.  Lightly paint the pizza crust with olive oil.

Spread the pizza crust with the eggplant puree, then the mozzarella.  Arrange the pear slices over the cheese, then sprinkle with the shallot and bacon. Lightly sprinkle with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Bake the pizza for 15-18 minutes, until the crust is done and cheese begins to brown.

Serves 3-4.

Roasted Eggplant Puree with Olive Oil

Toward the end of eggplant season I decided to experiment with pureeing and freezing it.  I didn't post the recipe then because I wanted to see how good the results were.  Straight cooked eggplant freezes terribly - the resulting texture is awful - but I had heard that eggplant puree produced better results.  It's true!  This is definitely good enough to be worth doing.

Whole eggplants
Olive oil
Salt and pepper (optional)

Start by roasting whole eggplants in a 500 degree oven (on baking sheets) or on the grill.  Roast until the outside is fairly well blackened and the eggplant is nice and soft all over.  Let them cool until you can handle them comfortably, then slice them open and scoop out the flesh.  Puree the flesh in a food processor, adding a generous quantity of olive oil, until very smooth and silky in texture.  Add salt and pepper to taste if desired.

To freeze, scoop desired quantities into freezer bags (I froze in 1 cup amounts).  Spread out flat and freeze.

To thaw, place the bag in a bowl of warm water for 10 minutes or so.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Slow Cooker Lentil Tomato Soup with Bacon

Simple and hearty, really almost more of a stew than a soup.  You can, of course, make this on the stovetop instead of the slow cooker.  Saute the onions first instead of last, then add the other ingredients and simmer until the lentils are tender.  But if you start it in the slow cooker, this can be ready in 20 minutes once you get home from work.

1 1/2 cups brown lentils
4 cups cubed potatoes
3 cups crushed, ground, or chopped tomatoes (canned or frozen)
4 cups beef stock
Salt and pepper to taste
8 slices bacon
2 medium onions, chopped

Place lentils, potatoes, tomatoes, stock, and salt and pepper in the slow cooker.  Cook on high for 4-5 hours or low 7-9 hours.

Just before you are ready to serve the soup, cook the bacon until chewy (I do this under the broiler, using a rack over a pan, for about 6 minutes) and saute the onions until slightly browned.  Stir bacon and onions into the rest of the soup.  Add additional stock if desired.  Serve hot.

Serves about 6.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Brown Rice Risotto with Shiitakes and Mustard Greens

White Arborio is the classic rice for risotto, but you can actually make it with virtually any short grain rice (longer grain rices don't have enough starch to make it creamy), including short grain brown rice.  The trick is to parboil it first (thanks to Mark Bittman for this tip), then you cook it much as you would a standard risotto.  In this recipe, the slightly chewier brown rice is a nice match to the silky shiitakes--I made sure to grab some at the last farmers market of the regular season--and greens with a little bite--in this case, mizuna from my garden.  (If you don't care for mustard greens, you can substitute something milder, such as spinach or Swiss chard.)

1 1/2 cups short grain brown rice
Water
Olive oil
3 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
2 medium shallots, thinly sliced
4 cups thinly sliced shiitake mushrooms
2 cups well chopped mizuna or other mustard greens
2/3 cup grated Parmesan
Salt and pepper to taste

Parboil the rice for 20 minutes in plenty of water, then drain.

Heat a little olive oil in the pressure cooker, then add the parboiled rice.  Saute for 1-2 minutes, then add the stock.  Cover and bring to pressure, then reduce heat to medium so that it just maintains pressure but won't burn the rice.  Cook for 9 minutes, then release pressure.  If there is still liquid with the rice, simmer it over low heat, stirring periodically, until it reaches the desired consistency.  (If you don't have a pressure cooker, you can also cook the risotto the old fashioned way, adding liquid a little at a time and stirring until absorbed.)

While you cook the rice, heat a bit more olive oil in a skillet.  Add the shallots and saute for 2 minutes, then add the shiitakes.  Continue to saute until the shiitakes are tender.  Add the mustard greens and cook, stirring frequently, until nicely wilted.  Add salt and pepper to taste and remove from heat.

When everything is done, stir the shiitake-mizuna mixture into the rice.  Add the Parmesan and mix well.  Taste and add salt and pepper as desired.

Serves 4-6 as a side dish.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Chili-Lime Beef and Sweet Potato Stew

We picked up our cow from the slaughterhouse today and split it up among our selves and five other households as usual.  It was a big animal this year, with a share amounting to about 80 pounds, our largest ever.  I had only a handful of cuts left from last year's share in the freezer and am in the process of using them up.  This was our last package of 2011 stew beef.

The flavors of chili and lime give this a flavor of points south, but they are not overwhelming.  Feel free to add more if you like.

1 lb stew beef, cubed
1 Tbsp all purpose flour
2 tsp chili powder
Salt and pepper
Olive oil
2 medium onions, diced
6-8 cloves garlic, minced
Beef stock
2 medium sweet potatoes (about 1 lb), peeled and diced
1/2 cup pearl barley
2-3 tsp lime juice

Place the cubed beef in a bowl with the flour, chili powder, and a generous sprinkle of salt and pepper.  Toss to coat thoroughly.

Heat a little olive oil in a soup pot.  Add the beef and brown over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until well browned, about 5 minutes.  Add the onions and garlic and saute for 2 minutes or so.  Add enough beef stock to cover a bit generously.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer for about 30 minutes.

Add the sweet potatoes and barley, bring back to a boil, then again reduce heat and simmer for another 20-30 minutes, until the barley is tender.  Turn off heat and add lime juice.  Taste and adjust seasonings if needed.

Serves 4-5.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Whole Wheat Oatmeal Quick Bread

After some experimentation, this is adapted from a few different recipes I found online.  It's nothing but whole grains, and unlike many quick breads it is made in a free-form loaf rather than a loaf pan.  The texture is satisfyingly hearty and toothsome but not too heavy.  It's best eaten fresh, but not at all bad the next day.  I find it just a little addictive.

I buy soft wheat from Upinngil Farm or Four Star Farms (available at Green Fields Market) and grind it into whole wheat pastry flour.  This yields a wonderful flavor but a somewhat fluffier and coarser flour than what you get if you just buy whole wheat pastry flour at the store.

1 cup coarsely ground oat flour or instant oats (not old fashioned rolled)
1 1/2 - 2 cups freshly ground whole wheat pastry flour (store bought may need less)
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1-2 Tbsp honey (use less or more depending on sweetness desired)
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
3/4 - 1 cup milk

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Combine oatmeal, whole wheat pastry flour (start with 1 - 1 1/2 cups), baking powder, and salt in a large bowl.

Combine honey, oil, and milk (start with 3/4 cup) in a small bowl and mix well (honey will tend to stiffen with cold milk, so stir well).  Stir wet ingredients into dry ingredients.  Add additional flour or milk if needed to form a soft but not too sticky dough.  It will not have the consistency of a yeasted bread dough, but you want to be able to handle it.  Form it into a roll about 2-3 inches across and 6 inches long.  Place on a baking stone or lightly oiled baking sheet.  Bake for 20 minutes, or until the loaf sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.

Makes 1 loaf.  Serves 4-6 as an accompaniment to soup, etc.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Roasted Fingerling and Carrot Coins

Simple but really good.  You can always add some herbs to dress it up (try rosemary, sage, thyme, or parsley), but it's not at all necessary.  If you happen to have some fancy large crystal salt lying around (I know, most people don't), use it here.  I have some that my in-laws gave me for Christmas, 'artisanal' sea salt with large but delicate crystals.  I used it in this dish and it added a nice crunch here and there, a pleasant effect.

2 lbs fingerling potatoes, cut into 1/4-inch rounds (do not peel)
3-4 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch rounds
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Toss the potatoes and carrots together in a roasting pan and drizzle generously with olive oil (don't be shy on this!).  Sprinkle generously with salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste and toss to coat.

Roast for 30-40 minutes, stirring once or twice about halfway through, until the vegetables are tender and starting to crisp up a little bit in places.  Serve hot.

Serves about 6.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Leek Risotto with Apples, Spinach, and Blue Cheese

Sometimes a set of ingredients just speaks to me tells me what I need to do with it.  Such was the case here, with apples, spinach, and leeks in the fridge (I had to go out and buy the blue cheese, but the apples and spinach insisted).  Choose a blue cheese of your liking; I recommend erring on the side of mildness rather than pungency here.  You want it to be flavorful but not to completely overwhelm the rest of the dish.  I used a marvelous sheep's milk blue from Seabrook Farm in Vermont.  For the apples, choose ones that are nice and tart that will hold their shape well when cooked - I used Macouns.

Olive oil
3 medium-large leeks, thinly sliced
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
3 1/2 cups chicken stock
3 medium-sized tart apples, peeled and diced
1/2 lb spinach, stemmed and well chopped
3-4 oz. crumbled or diced blue cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

Make the risotto in the pressure cooker: Heat a little olive oil in the bottom of the cooker and saute about one third of the sliced leeks for 2 minutes or so.  Add the rice and saute for a minute or two.  Pour in the stock, bring the cooker to pressure, and cook for 7 minutes.  Release pressure.

While the risotto cooks, heat a bit more oil in a large skillet and saute the remainder of the leeks for 2-3 minutes.  Add the apples and cook over medium heat until tender but not soft (you don't want applesauce here).  Add the spinach and cook for a few minutes, covered, until it wilts.  Stir in the blue cheese and let it melt, then mix well.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve mounds of risotto topped generously with the apple and spinach mixture.

Serves about 4.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Classic Beef Stew

No exotic spices here, just classic comfort food with plenty of flavor - perfect for a brisk day.  Make this in the middle of the afternoon and let it simmer away over very low heat until dinner time.

2 lbs stew beef, cubed
1 Tbsp all purpose flour
1/4 tsp chili powder
Salt and pepper to taste
Canola oil
3 medium onions, diced
2 1/2 - 3 lbs fingerling potatoes, cubed or in 1/2-inch rounds
3 large carrots, diced or in rounds
Beef stock
1 tsp dried thyme
3 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce

Place the beef in a bowl and toss with the flour, chili powder, and a liberal sprinkling of salt and pepper.

Heat some canola oil in a large pot.  Add the beef and brown well over high heat.  Strong browning action here will produce better flavor for the stew.

When the beef is browned, add the onions and stir well.  Continue to cook for 2-3 minutes, as the onions brown a little bit too.  Add the potatoes and carrots to the pot, then enough beef stock to cover all ingredients.  Add the thyme and Worcestershire sauce and some more salt.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer until the beef is tender, at least 30 minutes - an hour or even longer would be better if you have the time.

Serves about 6.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Pureed Potato Soup with Shiitakes and Roasted Garlic

Here's a simple, earthy, comforting soup for fall.  If you don't have roasted garlic on hand (and don't have time to roast it before making the soup) just mince and saute several cloves along with the shallot and mushrooms.

Olive oil
1 large shallot or small onion, finely chopped
1/4 lb shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and finely chopped
2 1/2 lbs potatoes, cubed (no need to peel)
1 bay leaf
Chicken stock and/or water
1 head roasted garlic, cloves peeled
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat a little olive oil in a large pot.  Add the shallot or onion and the shiitake mushrooms and saute for 3-4 minutes.  Add the potatoes, bay leaf, and enough stock and/or water to cover.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until the potatoes are tender, about 15-20 minutes.

When the potatoes are nice and tender, remove the bay leaf and add the roasted garlic.  Puree the soup using an immersion blender (or do it in batches in a regular blender or food processor, then return to the pot).  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve hot, topped with a small drizzle of olive oil if desired.

Serves 5-6.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Pizza with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce, Onions, and Herbs

Here's another pizza using that delicious Fire Roasted Red Pepper and Eggplant Sauce, this one a bit less unconventional than the last one I posted, with the pears and feta.  Sliced red onion and chopped fresh herbs add some additional interest while letting the flavors of the sauce shine.

1 14-inch pizza crust
olive oil
3/4 cup Fire Roasted Red Pepper and Eggplant Sauce
1 medium red onion, sliced into thin rings
2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh sage
2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh parsley
Salt and pepper to taste
2-3 oz shredded mozzarella

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.  Lightly paint the pizza crust with olive oil.

Spread the red pepper sauce over the pizza crust, then arrange the onion rings over it.  Sprinkle with the  sage and parsley and add a light sprinkling of salt and pepper.  Top with mozzarella.

Bake for 15-18 minutes, until crust is done and cheese begins to brown.

Serves 3-4.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Pizza with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce, Pears, and Feta

This is a little unusual, but it's definitely a winner, with enthusiastic endorsement from everyone from my five year old to my mother-in-law.  Use pears that are nicely ripe but not mushy.  Substitute goat cheese for the feta if you like.

1 14-inch pizza crust
olive oil
3/4 cup Fire Roasted Red Pepper and Eggplant Sauce
1 medium-large pear, cored sliced 1/4-inch thick
3 oz crumbled feta
2 oz. shredded mozzarella (optional)

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.  Lightly paint the pizza crust with olive oil.

Spread the red pepper sauce over the pizza crust, then layer with the pear and feta.  Add mozzarella if desired.

Bake for 15-18 minutes, until crust is done and cheese begins to brown.

Serves 3-4.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Fire Roasted Red Pepper and Eggplant Sauce

This lovely orange sauce is sweet and savory with a silky texture from the eggplant.  Use it on pizza or pasta, or simply as a dip for pita chips.

3 red bell peppers
1 medium eggplant, pierced in a few places with a sharp knife
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste

Start by roasting the peppers and eggplant over a hot fire on the grill, turning as needed.  You want to blacken the skin of the peppers all the way around.  For the eggplant, roast until the skin is blackened and the eggplant is very soft.  The peppers and eggplant should take around the same amount of time.  Let the peppers and eggplant cool until you can handle them comfortable.

Peel the skin off the peppers and discard the stem and seeds.  For the eggplant, either peel off the skin or cut it in half lengthwise and scoop out the flesh.  Puree the skinned peppers and eggplant in a food processor.  Add the olive oil, salt, and pepper, and puree until very smooth.

Makes about 1 1/2 cups.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Lentil Soup with Sausage and Red Pepper

I could really feel fall in the air today.  Perfect for soup!  This made enough for two meals for my family, so I put the leftovers in the freezer for another day.

1 cup dry lentils
Water or chicken stock
2-3 medium potatoes, diced (no need to peel)
1 lb Italian sausage (hot or sweet), casings removed
6-8 cloves garlic, minced
2 large shallots or 1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 red bell peppers, finely chopped
2-3 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried thyme
Salt and pepper to taste

Place the lentils in a soup pot with 4 or 5 cups of water or chicken stock.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer.  After about 15 minutes, add the potatoes.

While the lentils and potatoes cook, brown the sausage in a large skillet.  Add the garlic and shallots or onion and continue to saute over medium high heat for 2-3 minutes.  Add the red pepper, oregano, and thyme and cook for another 3-5 minutes.

When the lentils are tender, add the sausage mixture to the soup pot.  Add additional water or stock as desired, plus salt and pepper to taste.

Serves 6-8.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Summer Squash Saute with Sage and Parmesan

This is a variation on my mother-in-law's Cheesy Summer Squash Saute, which is also delicious.

Olive oil
2 medium summer squashes or zucchinis, sliced in 1/4-inch rounds
1 large onion, chopped or in long slices
2-3 Tbsp finely chopped fresh sage leaves
Salt and pepper to taste
3-4 Tbsp grated Parmesan

Heat some olive oil in a large skillet. Add the onion and squash or zucchini and saute, stirring occasionally, over low-medium heat for several minutes until tender and lightly browned in places. Add the sage, salt, and pepper and stir. Sprinkle the Parmesan over the vegetables, turn off the heat, and cover for a few minutes. Serve once the cheese is melted.

Serves about 4.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Pesto Pasta with Grilled Red Peppers

Red bell peppers grilled over a fire add tangy sweetness and a bit of smoke to liven up pasta with pesto.  I throw in some cooked beans for protein, but you can leave them out or substitute cooked chicken if you like.  This is a dish to make right now while peppers in are season.  Traditional basil pesto is excellent here, but try one of the others (parsley pesto would be really good too, or my Thai pesto) if you like.  With a stock of pesto in the freezer, this is an easy meal.

4 red bell peppers, thinly sliced the long way
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 lb pasta
1 cup pesto
2 cups cooked beans (optional)

Toss the peppers with a bit of olive oil and salt and pepper.  Grill over low to medium heat, stirring occasionally, until tender and somewhat charred around the edges, about 15 minutes.

While the peppers grill, bring a pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta.  Drain it, reserving a little of the cooking water.  Stir in the pesto and beans, adding back a little cooking water if needed to thin the sauce.  Then stir in the grilled peppers.

Serves 4-6.

Curried Goat (or Lamb) and Eggplant Stew

Roasted eggplant forms the base of this savory Indian curry.  Simmered chunks of goat meat (or substitute lamb) make a tender, toothsome addition, but you can leave them out for a vegan version.  I get goat meat from Balky Farm in Northfield, which also offers lamb.  Particularly in ground or stew meat form, lamb and goat are essentially interchangeable.  Serve this over rice.

3 lbs eggplant,diced
4-5 cups tomatoes, seeded and diced
Canola oil
Salt and pepper to taste
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 1/2 - 2 Tbsp grated ginger root
1 Tbsp ground coriander
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper, or to taste
1-2 lbs stew goat or lamb, cubed
Water
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Place the eggplant and about half the tomatoes in a large roasting pan.  Drizzle with oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and toss to coat.  Roast for about 30 minutes, stirring halfway through.

While the vegetables roast, start preparing the rest of the stew.  Heat a little oil in a soup pot, then add the onion.  Saute over low-medium heat until translucent and a bit golden, about 10 minutes.  Add the ginger, coriander, cumin, paprika, turmeric, and cayenne, and saute over low heat for 2 minutes or so to toast the spices.  Add the goat meat, turn the heat to medium, and brown well.  Add the remaining tomatoes and just enough water to cover the meat.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer until the meat is pleasantly tender, 45-60 minutes.

When the meat is tender and the vegetables are roasted, add the veggies to the stew pot and stir well.  Simmer for at least a few minutes, longer if you have time, so the flavor of the spices can penetrate the eggplant.  Just before serving, stir in the cilantro.

Serve over rice.

Serves about 6.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Peach Leather

Having already frozen and dried (in slices) large quantities of peaches this year, I decided to try something different with the box of peaches in our fridge that was threatening to go bad before we could eat them.  I had never made fruit leather before and had been wanting to try it.  Turns out it's easy, and the end product is delicious - not to mention pure fruit, and thus more nutritious than most commercial fruit leathers.

I used my home dehydrator (I have this one, with two additional trays), and it took about 8 hours, which is shorter than it usually takes to dry peach slices.

Puree the peaches, making sure the puree is totally smooth - no chunks.  Cover the dehydrator trays with plastic wrap (unless you have the fruit leather tray inserts).  Cut out holes in the middle where the heating element/fan will go, making sure that the plastic wrap will not be in contact with the heating element.  Also leave a little space around the outer edge for the air to circulate.  Carefully spread the peach puree onto the plastic wrap on the trays, 1/8-inch thick.  Turn on the dehydrator and run it until the leather is totally dry, though it will still be somewhat sticky.  Peel off the plastic wrap and turn the leather rounds over, then let them sit for another several hours before putting them away.

To store fruit leather, you can cut it into strips and put it in a jar or plastic container; however they may stick together, especially over time.  Alternatively, you can keep the leather in large pieces and roll it up with some plastic wrap, then store in a sealed bag or container and cut off pieces as you want them.

This technique works with other fruits as well.  For very juicy berries (raspberries, blueberries, etc), it is best to mix with applesauce.  Apples need to be cooked into applesauce.  You can also add ingredients such as cooked sweet potato if desired.

Fire Roasted Chili Peppers

We always grow one or two chili pepper plants in our garden each year, and often end up with more peppers than I can use fresh.  Some years I have made salsa, and hot peppers can also be frozen whole or sliced in half and seeded (just like sweet peppers).  This year I wanted to try something different, so I fire roasted a bunch for a result that is smoky and a little sweet as well as spicy.  I plan to use them in pots of chili, beans and rice, etc. through the winter.  The technique is much like the technique for fire roasting sweet peppers (which I also recommend doing now that sweet peppers are fully in season).

You can use green or red chili peppers; the ripe ones will be a bit sweeter.  If you have a mix of colors, I suggest keeping them them separate for strictly aesthetic reasons.  I strongly suggest wearing gloves (regular rubber gloves are fine) while handling the chilies, especially when you are ready to peel them.

If you are using large chili peppers, you can cut them in half lengthwise and seed them before grilling.  Otherwise, you put the whole peppers directly on the grill.

Get your grill going nice and hot.  Lay the chili peppers out across the grate and grill, turning as needed, until the skin is blistered and they are black all over.  Do not be shy about this, because the skin is very hard to remove if not fully blackened.  However, keep and eye on the chilies because you also don't want to char them so fully that you burn the flesh under the skin.

When the chilies are fully blackened, remove them from the grill and set them in a bowl with something covering it (they will steam a little, which also helps loosen the skins) until they are cool enough to handle.  Wearing gloves and using a paring knife, slice the top (stem part) off each chili and run the knife around the inside of it to remove as much of the seeds as possible.  Then peel or scrape off the blackened skins.  The chilies will get slippery as you peel them, so handle with care.

Once you have your peeled chilies, you can use them as is (probably mince first) and store them in the fridge.  You can also puree them.  I opted to puree and then tray freeze little dollops, stored in freezer bag for use in small quantities.


Thursday, September 13, 2012

Eggplant Chicken Chili

Yes indeed, more eggplant.  Not your standard chili vegetable perhaps, but its texture works well and it soaks up the flavors quite nicely.  If you like, substitute some minced chipotles in adobo sauce in place of the fresh hot peppers for a delicious shot of smoky heat.  Skip the chicken for a vegetarian version.

Olive oil
6-8 cloves garlic, minced
2 medium onions, chopped
2 large eggplants, peeled and diced
2 red bell peppers, diced
2 hot peppers (e.g. jalapenos), seeded and minced (or to taste)
4-6 medium tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped
3 cups cooked kidney beans
1 Tbsp ground cumin
Salt and pepper to taste
2 cups shredded cooked chicken
Sour cream and or shredded cheddar for topping (optional)

Heat the oil in a soup pot.  Add the garlic and onions and saute over medium-high heat for 2-3 minutes.  Add the eggplant, peppers, hot peppers, and tomatoes.  You may want to add a little additional oil as well, as the eggplant will tend to soak it up.  Cook, stirring often, until the vegetables are somewhat softened.  Add the beans, cumin, salt and pepper, and chicken.  Cover, reduce heat, and simmer until the veggies are soft.

Serves 4-6.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Caramelized Fennel and Onion Frittata with Tomatoes and Goat Cheese

This is what I did with the rest of my batch of Caramelized Fennel and Onions, after using some on pizza a few days ago.  Goat cheese goes beautifully with these flavors (it would make a nice variation for the pizza, too).  Like many frittatas, this works for any meal of the day.  Can be served hot or at room temperature.

6 eggs, beaten
1 - 1 1/2 cups Caramelized Fennel and Onions
3-4 oz. crumbled goat cheese
Salt and pepper to taste 
1 medium tomatoes, sliced 1/8-inch thick (seeds removed)

Combine the eggs, caramelized onion and fennel, goat cheese, and salt and pepper in a medium bowl.  Let it sit at room temperature for 30 minutes or so if you can.

Oil well a 10-inch oven proof skillet and heat it up over medium heat.  Pour in the egg mixture and make sure the veggies and cheese are evenly distributed.  Cook, without stirring, over low-medium heat until the eggs are largely set.  While you do so, preheat the broiler.  Lay the tomato slices on top of the egg mixture.  Finish the friittata under the broiler for 3-5 minutes, until the eggs are cooked through.

Serves 3-4.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Risotto with Tarragon Eggplant and Peppers

Eggplants and peppers are still coming in from the garden in huge quantities right now.  Peppers I don't feel quite as pressed to use because they are so easy to freeze. But eggplants really don't take well to being preserved by virtually any method.  You can freeze cooked eggplant, but I find the texture deteriorates too much to be worth it.  So when we've got a bumper crop like we do this year, I find myself scrambling to use as much as I can without getting too repetitious.  Fortunately, eggplant works well with many different flavorings and types of cuisine.

This recipe uses a pressure cooker to make the risotto, as I pretty much always do now.

Veggies
3 Tbsp olive oil
2-3 medium shallots, minced
2 medium eggplants (preferably Italian style), peeled and cut into thin strips about 2 inches long
2 medium or large sweet red peppers, cut into thin strips
1 tsp dried tarragon
2 Tbsp dry sherry
Salt and pepper to taste

Risotto
Olive oil
1 1/2 cups uncooked arborio rice
3 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1/3 cup grated Parmesan
Salt and pepper to taste

Prepare the vegetables first, then make the risotto while they finish cooking.


Heat the olive oil in a large skillet or other wide bottomed pan.  Add most of the minced shallot, reserved 1-2 Tbsp of it for the risotto.  Saute over medium high heat for about 2 minutes, then add the eggplant and peppers.  Toss them well to get them coated with oil.  Saute over medium heat, stirring frequently, until they begin to soften.  Then reduce the heat to low or medium low and cover.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until they are very soft.  Add the tarragon, sherry, and salt and pepper, and cook for a few more minutes.
To prepare the risotto: Heat a little olive oil in the pressure cooker with the lid off, then add the reserved minced shallot. Saute for 2-3 minutes, then add the rice. Saute, stirring frequently, for another 2-3 minutes, until the rice turns translucent. Add all of the stock, cover, lock, and turn to the high pressure setting. Bring to pressure, then reduce heat (maintaining pressure) and cook for 7 minutes. Remove from heat and release pressure. Stir in Parmesan, salt, and pepper.


Serve the eggplant and pepper mixture over mounds of risotto.

Serves 4-5.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Caramelized Fennel and Onion Pizza with Tomatoes

Flavorful, and easy too if you have made Caramelized Fennel and Onions in advance.

1 14-inch pizza crust
olive oil
3-4 oz. shredded mozzarella
1 - 1 1/2 cups Caramelized Fennel and Onions
1-2 medium tomatoes, sliced 1/8-inch thick (seeds removed)
Salt and pepper to taste
Grated Parmesan

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.  Lightly paint the pizza crust with olive oil.

Spread most of the mozzarella over the oiled pizza crust.  Spread the caramelized fennel and onion mixture over the cheese to form a more or less even layer.  Top with tomato slices.  Sprinkle salt and pepper over everything, then sprinkle on the remaining mozzarella and a bit of grated Parmesan.

Bake for 15-18 minutes, until the crust is done and the cheese begins to brown.

Serves 3-4.

Caramelized Fennel and Onions

This is not a dish by itself but rather a tasty addition to pizza, pasta sauce, etc.  Or try it on bruschetta.  Carmelizing mellows the flavor of fennel and brings out its sweetness, just as is true of onions.

Making this does not take a lot of effort, but it does take a lot of time, so plan to make a large batch sometime when you will be available to check in on it periodically over a few hours.  The finished product will keep in the fridge for at least a few days, or you can freeze it in small quantities for later use.  I've suggested quantities here for the fennel and onions, but you can increase it as you see fit (and as fits in your pot).  The quantities below will fill a Dutch oven to the top at the beginning of the cooking process.

2 Tbsp olive oil
2 very large or 4 medium fennel bulbs, coarsely chopped with cores removed
6 medium onions, sliced lengthwise
Salt to taste

Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven or other large pot.  Add the fennel and onions and stir to coat with olive oil.  Saute over medium heat for a few minutes, then reduce the heat to low and partially cover.  Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, for 2-3 hours, until the fennel and onions have been reduced to a soft mass and have turned a nice golden brown.  Add salt to taste.  You can continue to cook them to a darker shade if you like, but if you choose to do so, be sure to watch them and stir more often to prevent them from going too far.

Makes 2-3 cups.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Tomato Peach Salad with Feta

Another sweet and tangy tomato-peach concoction, this time in salad form.

4 medium tomatoes, seeded and diced
4 medium peaches, pitted and diced
1/2 medium red onion, finely chopped
2 oz. crumbled feta cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tsp red wine vinegar
2 tsp olive oil

Place the diced tomatoes in a colander over the sink for a few minutes to drain off excess liquid, then combine with the peaches in a bowl.  Add the onion, feta, and salt and pepper.  Combine the oil and vinegar in a small glass, then drizzle over the salad.  Toss to coat.  (For a more visually spiffy version, make the salad in layers: tomatoes on the bottom, then peaches sprinkled over, then onions, then feta on top, with salt and pepper and dressing over all.)

Serves about 8.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Slow Cooker Sage and Garlic Chicken with White Beans and Tomatoes

Bone-in chicken pieces, especially legs, work well in the slow cooker, where they stay wonderfully moist and flavorful.  Since the juices stay in the cooker, you end up with something like a cross between a roast and a braise.  You can also take them straight from the freezer into the cooker, which also makes them easy.

In a colder season, you can substitute dried sage (use about 1/2 tsp and sprinkle it over the chicken) and frozen or canned tomatoes.

Serves this over rice or barley (cooked in chicken broth if you like).

1-2 cups cooked white beans
6-8 garlic cloves, peeled
4 chicken legs
Salt and pepper to taste
8-12 whole fresh sage leaves
3 medium tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped or squished through your fingers

Place the beans and garlic cloves in the bottom of the cooker, then add the chicken legs.  Salt and pepper them generously.  Lay 2-3 sage leaves over each leg.  Top the whole thing with tomatoes.

Cook on Low for 6-9 hours.

Serves about 4.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Watermelon Salad Three Ways

Watermelon - especially good, sweet, flavorful local watermelon - is pretty great straight up.  But it also lends itself well to sweet-savory combinations, especially with sour or salty counterpoint ingredients.  You can easily freestyle with the general concept, but here are some ideas to get you going.  Quantities are basically according to your  taste and the amount of watermelon you start with; add seasonings in small amounts until you are happy with the flavor.


In all cases, start with cubed watermelon, seeded if you like.
.
1. The classic: chopped fresh mint, lime juice, touch of salt

2. Diced tomato, chopped fresh cilantro, lime juice or cider vinegar, salt and pepper

3. Crumbled feta, freshly ground black pepper.  Add diced tomato or cucumber if desired.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Rosemary and Garlic Grilled Vegetable Medley

Yet another delicious way to grill some of summer's bounty.  I served this with risotto.

2 medium-large summer squashes or zucchinis, cut up
3 medium eggplants, cut up
3 medium tomatoes, seeded and cut up
2 large shallots or 1 medium red onion, chopped
6-8 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp minced fresh rosemary
2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

Place the vegetables in a large bowl.  Drizzle generously with olive oil and toss to coat.  Combine the garlic, rosemary, and vinegar in a small bowl or jar, then pour over the vegetables and stir until everything is well coated.  If you have time, let them marinate, stirring occasionally, for up to an hour or two.

Grill the vegetables in a grill basket over medium heat, stirring every 5-8 minutes or so, until done to your liking.  This will take 25-30 minutes, depending on how large or small the pieces are.

Serves 6-8.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Risotto with Pork, Fennel, and Peaches

This came together as a way to use up a couple of leftover Fennel-Garlic Pork Chops, and it was a raging success.  I think you could use other types of leftover pork as well (roast, loin, etc) as long as the seasonings are compatible.

Pork
Olive oil
6-8 cloves garlic, minced
1 large fennel bulb, chopped (about 2-3 cups)
2-3 cups diced peaches (peeled if desired; not necessary)
2-3 cups diced or thinly sliced cooked pork chops or similar
1-2 tsp red wine vinegar
splash of water
Salt and pepper to taste

Risotto
Olive oil
1 small shallot, minced
1 1/2 cups uncooked arborio rice
3 1/2 cups vegetable stock
1/3 cup grated Parmesan
Salt and pepper to taste

You can prepare the pork and the risotto simultaneously if you like.  Otherwise, make the risotto first.


To prepare the pork mixture: heat a little olive oil in a wide bottomed pan such as a braising pan or Dutch oven.  Add the garlic and fennel and saute over medium to medium-high heat for several minutes, until the fennel is somewhat soft.  Add the peaches and cooked sliced pork along with the red wine vinegar and a small splash of water.  Stir to combine, then reduce heat and let the liquid turn into a bit of sauce.

To prepare the risotto: Heat a little olive oil in the pressure cooker with the lid off, then add the shallot. Saute for 2-3 minutes, then add the rice. Saute, stirring frequently, for another 2-3 minutes, until the rice turns translucent. Add all of the stock, cover, lock, and turn to high pressure setting. Bring to pressure, then reduce heat and cook for 7 minutes. Remove from heat and release pressure. Stir in Parmesan, salt, and pepper.


Serve the pork mixture over mounds of risotto.

Serves 4-6.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Tomato Peach Pizza with Feta

This was a spur of the moment inspiration and it really worked.  The sweet peaches, tangy tomatoes, and salty feta all complement each other beautifully.

1 14-inch pizza crust
olive oil
3-4 oz. shredded mozzarella
1 large slicing tomato, in 1/4-inch slices
1 medium peach, in 1/8-1/4-inch slices
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
3 oz. crumbled feta
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.  Lightly paint the pizza crust with olive oil.  Top with the mozzarella.

Spread the tomato slices over the pizza without overlapping - in fact, leave a little space between them.  Spread the peach slice amongst the tomato slices.  Sprinkle with red onion and feta, then top with a bit of black pepper.

Bake for 15-18 minutes, until the crust is done and the cheese begins to brown.

Serves 3-4.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Peaches and Cream

There's a reason peaches and cream are a classic pairing.  You can keep it utterly simple with sliced peaches drizzled with local heavy cream, or you can dress it up just a tiny bit as described below.

6 ripe peaches, diced
2-3 Tbsp maple syrup (divided)
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 tsp vanilla extract (optional)

Toss the peaches in a bowl with 1 Tbsp maple syrup and set aside (refrigerate if not serving immediately).

Add the remaining maple syrup and vanilla extract to the cream and whip it to desired consistency.  For this dessert I like it on the softer side, so that it's notably thickened but doesn't quite reach the soft peaks stage.  You can do it even softer than that if you like.

Serve the peaches into bowls and top generously with the whipped cream.

Serves 4-6.

Grilled Fennel with Lemon and Parsley

Another recipe for fennel lovers.  Lemon juice adds a pleasant tang as you bite into it.

2 medium fennel bulbs, cut into wedges
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp lemon juice
Salt and pepper

2-3 Tbsp finely chopped fresh parsley

Combine the oil and lemon juice, then brush it onto the fennel.  Sprinkle both sides with salt and pepper.

Grill the fennel over medium heat for 10-12 minutes, turning once, until done to your liking (I like it tender but still with a little crunch).  Sprinkle with parsley at the table.

Serves about 4.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Balsamic and Garlic Mixed Grilled Vegetables

When you're swimming in produce at this point in the summer, grilling up a bunch of mixed cut vegetables is a great way to use a lot at once.  Go ahead and make more than you'll eat at one meal.  The leftovers are good warm or cold and can be used in a variety of ways.  Try them with hummus in a pita, or tossed with pasta and herbs, or as a pizza topping, among other options.

Good veggies for this mix include eggplant, sweet peppers, zucchini, and summer squash.  You can through in some shallots or onions for a mild kick, and mushrooms are an excellent, deeply flavorful addition.  Grilling time will vary depending on how large or small you cut the vegetables - smaller pieces cook faster.  Squash or zucchini take a bit longer than the others, so you may want to cut them a little smaller.  Note that you'll need a grill basket for this.

8 cups mixed cut summer vegetables
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup minced garlic
Salt and pepper to taste

Place the vegetables in a large bowl.  Combine the remaining ingredients in a small bowl or jar, then pour over the vegetables and stir until everything is well coated.  If you have time, let them marinate, stirring occasionally, for up to an hour or two.

Grill the vegetables in a grill basket over medium heat, stirring every 5-8 minutes or so, until done to your liking.  This will take 25-30 minutes, depending on how large or small the pieces are.

Serves 6-8.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Baby Is Here

My new baby girl was born last Friday and is keeping us busy, so it will be a little while before my next culinary post.

In the meantime, be sure to look through the archives - I've got four years of seasonal recipes here, so there's plenty to work with for inspiration.  I'll be back to posting (at least a little) once I get back to cooking, but for the next few weeks I'm just going to enjoy my mother-in-law's excellent meals and the offerings of our friends.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Upcoming Hiatus

Baby #2 is due sometime in the next few weeks, and I probably won't be posting much for at least a few weeks after she's born.  But keep checking - I'll be back once things settle down, if only because the garden will be in full swing with veggies begging to get used.

Grilled Focaccia with Herbs and Garlic

This is easy and awesome.  Make your own dough if you have time or use a ball of frozen dough from the grocery store.  Enjoy it now while the weather's hot and the herbs are coming into full production.

1 batch pizza dough
Olive oil
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil and parsley
4 cloves garlic, minced

Pat the dough out to about 1/2-inch thick, maybe a little less.  Oil both sides liberally and set aside on a plate.

In a bowl, combine the chopped herbs and garlic with about 2 Tbsp olive oil and set aside.

Get your grill going pretty hot, then carefully transfer the dough from the plate to the grill.  Close the cover and grill for about 3 minutes.  Use tongs to flip the focaccia over and quickly spread the cooked side with the garlic and herb mixture.  Close the grill lid again and cook for about 2 minutes more.  Remove from the grill.

Let the focaccia cool enough to handle, then tear or cut into pieces and serve.

Serves 4-6.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Grilled Snap Peas

Grilling briefly over high heat brings out the sweetness of the peas and adds a nice smoky note to the flavor while still leaving them with a good crunch.  Feel free to vary the seasonings.  You'll need a grill basket for this.

1 Tbsp sesame oil
1 tsp spicy mustard
1 tsp sugar or honey
1/2 lb snap peas, stemmed
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine the oil, mustard, and sugar or honey in small bowl and mix well.  Place the snap peas in a medium bowl and add the dressing, then toss to coat.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Get the grill nice and hot, then place the peas in the grill basket and grill for 3-5 minutes, stirring once or twice.  They should brown a bit but not get charred or soft.  Serve hot.

Serves about 4.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Pasta Salad with Snap Peas and Herbs

Another cold dish for another hot June day.  If you like, you can beef this up into more of a main dish by adding tuna (3 cans is about right), cooked shredded chicken, or cooked beans.  Feel free to substitute shelled English peas for the snap peas, or even fava beans or edamame.  You can also mix up the herbs for different flavor profiles: try mint, cilantro, or dill here in place of the basil and/or parsley.

1 lb pasta, cooked and cooled
3-4 cups diced snap peas
1 cup chopped fresh basil
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 Tbsp minced garlic scapes
1 cup chopped chives
1/2 - 1 cup mayonnaise
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and mix well until everything is coated with mayo and ingredients are evenly distributed.  Serve immediately or refrigerate.

Serves about 6.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Strawberry Rhubarb Cobbler

I guess this is sort of a cross between Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp and Strawberry Shortcake.  Another delicious variation on a theme.  Under no circumstances should you skip the whipped cream.  The cobbler topping is the cream biscuits recipe from Alice Water's The Art of Simple Food, and it's the best I've had.


6-7 cups combined whole strawberries and rhubarb in 1-inch chunks
1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp white sugar
1 1/2 cups + 2 Tbsp all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
6 Tbsp cold butter, in small pieces
1 pint heavy cream
1-2 Tbsp confectioners sugar

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Butter an 8x8-inch baking dish.

Combine the strawberries and rhubarb in a mixing bowl with 1/2 cup white sugar and 2 Tbsp flour and toss well to coat.  Set aside while you make the dough for the topping.

Combine 1 1/2 cups flour, baking powder, and salt in a mixing bowl. Add the butter and cut in with a pastry cutter or two knives until it is peas-sized or smaller.  Add 3/4 cup cream and stir with a fork until the dough just comes together.  If it's too dry, add more cream a little drizzle at a time until you can form the dough into a rough ball in your hands.  Transfer it to a lightly floured surface and press it out with your hands until it is a size that will more or less cover the baking dish.

Pour the fruit into the baking dish and place the dough over it (it should be contained within the dish, not hang over).  Bake for 45-55 minutes, until the dough is cooked through and golden brown, and the fruit is bubbling.  Let cool on a rack.

While the cobbler bakes, whip the rest of the cream with the confectioners sugar and refrigerate until ready to use.

Serve the cobbler warm or room temperature with a generous helping of whipped cream on top.

Serves 6-8.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Chipotle Chard Polenta

I bought a big batch of Swiss chard at the farmers market last weekend, can you tell?

3 cups water
1 cup polenta cornmeal
1 tsp salt
Olive oil
1/2 cup garlic scapes
1/2 - 1 cups chopped spring onions
4 cups chopped Swiss chard
1 large chipotle pepper in adobe sauce, seeds removed (or more to taste)
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 - 3/4 cup tomato sauce
3-4 oz. shredded sharp cheddar

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

In a large saucepan, bring the water to a boil. Add the salt, and whisk in the polenta meal. Lower the heat to a simmer and continue to stir with a spoon. Be careful, as the cooking polenta is viscous and can bubble up and burn you. Cooking time will vary with the type of polenta you are using. The kind I get at Green Fields Market, in the bulk section, thickens up very quickly. You want it to be pretty stiff for this application. When the polenta is cooked, remove from heat, cover, and set aside for now.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet.  Ad the scapes and onions and saute until tender, 3-5 minutes.  Add the chard and chipotle and saute until the chard is nicely wilted.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Oil a 10-inch oven-proof skillet or a 7x11-inch baking dish. Spread the cooked polenta in the bottom. Spread the tomato sauce over the polenta, then add the chard mixture.  Top with cheddar.

Bake the polenta for about 15 minutes, until the cheese begins to brown. Serve hot.

Serves about 4.

Monday, June 4, 2012

White Bean Stew with Sausage and Chard

It may be June, but on a chilly wet day like today, stew seemed to be in order.  I used my last package of frozen roasted tomatoes here.  With luck, we'll have fresh ones in the garden by late next month.

Olive oil
3/4 cup finely diced garlic scapes (or 4 cloves garlic, minced)
1 lb Italian sausage (casings removed)
3 cups cooked white beans
1-2 cups diced tomatoes (frozen and thawed or canned, optional)
2 cups chicken stock
1 Tbsp dried basil
Salt and pepper to taste
3-4 cups well chopped Swiss chard

Heat some olive oil in a soup pot.  Add the scapes and saute for 2 minutes or so.  Add the sausage and cook until nicely browned.  Add the beans, tomatoes (if using), stock, basil, and salt and pepper.  Simmer for 10 minutes or so, then add the chard.  Cook until well wilted, then serve.

Serves 4-5.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Ingredients to Pair With Asparagus

Now that it's June, the novelty of the early season has worn off - and if you have a patch of your own you've been eating it almost daily for long enough that you're getting desperate for new ideas.  There are many recipes in the archives here, but I thought I've give some more general ideas, too.  Asparagus is a versatile vegetable.  Trying pairing it with:

1. Pork: chorizo, bacon, ham, proscuitto...
2. Eggs: in frittatas, scrambles, quiches, topped with fried eggs...
3. Cheese: goat cheese, feta, cheddar, Parmesan...
4. Mushrooms: especially flavorful wild mushrooms

And with many different types of seasonings:

1. Garlic: always good, whether roasted, grilled, sauteed...
2. Mustard: try a mustard-shallot marinade or sauce
3. Asian flavors: soy sauce, sesame oil, ginger...try these as marinades or sauces, or toss it right into a stir fry
4. Curry: Indian or Thai, it works well in both
5. Herbs: basil, tarragon, dill

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Asparagus Bacon Frittata

Our kitchen is functional again!  (Beautiful, too.)  To celebrate having plumbing and a working stove again, I cooked.

This recipe works best if you have two skillets available.  You'll want a clean 10-inch oven-proof one to cook the frittata in; you can saute the other ingredients in another.

4-5 slices bacon
1 medium onion, chopped
2-3 cups sliced asparagus (in rounds)
Salt and pepper
6 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup grated Parmesan

Cook the bacon in a large skillet, then drain on paper towels.  Pour off most of the bacon fat, then add the onions and saute for 2-3 minutes.  Add the asparagus and continue to saute over medium heat until tender, about 3-5 minutes depending on the size of the pieces.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

While the bacon and vegetables cook, combine the eggs and Parmesan in a medium bowl.  Chop the bacon once it is cool enough to handle and add to the eggs.  When the vegetables are ready, stir them in as well.

Take a 10-inch ovenproof skillet and oil it well.  Heat over medium heat, then pour in the egg mixture and level it out.  Cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes, until the eggs are partially set.  Turn on the broiler.  Finish cooking the frittata under the broiler for 3-5 minutes; check for doneness by inserting a knife into the middle.  Watch it carefully to avoid overcooking or burning.

Serve hot, warm, or room temperature.

Serves about 4.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Strawberries This Week!

Upinngil Farm in Gill says they will have strawberries at the farm stand by Thursday, with U-Pick possibly opening Saturday.  Can't wait!  Further south in the Valley there are probably berries starting to be available already.  What will you do with yours?

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Local Goat Cheese Burger

We've been renovating our kitchen over the last several weeks, hence the paucity of new recipes lately.  But here's a simple one that did not require my stove (currently out of commission) or any pans (currently stored in the basement).

This isn't really even a recipe so much as a suggestion:

Grill up some local grass-fed beef burgers (keep them medium rare).  Serve them on good quality buns, toasted on the grill alongside the burgers.  Instead of slicing cheese and melting it on the burgers on the grill, spread some local goat cheese on them upon serving.  Be generous with the quantity.  What else to add?  Well, it's spring, which means tender local arugula and lettuce are in season.  Maybe a little locally made mustard.  You can add ketchup if you like.  Although they're not in season, grilled slices of red onion would also be excellent.  Enjoy!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Community Supported Fishery

This was a new idea to me, but one that makes plenty of sense. A friend in the Boston area tipped me off about the Cape Code Fish Share. Participants buy shares that consist of a variety of fish, sustainably fished off Cape Cod. Share are offered in six week sessions several times a year, based on the fishing seasons, and they come in multiple sizes. There are pick-up sites around the Boston and Cape Cod areas, plus a couple here in the Pioneer Valley (Amherst, Northampton, and Easthampton for the current share session). If you like fish and seafood (some share options include lobster and scallops) - and especially if you like fish but have shied away from it because it's hard to know how it was fished or where it came from - check this out!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Grilled Ham Steak

If you love ham but find a whole ham is a lot to cook for any old night, get your hands on some ham steaks. Many local pork farmers offer these - essentially 1/2-3/4 inch cross slices out of the whole ham. A single ham steak will typically feed 2-4 people. An added bonus - they are great on the grill!


No recipe is really needed here. Make sure you bring the steak to room temperature before cooking, then grill over a medium-hot fire for 4-5 minutes per side and serve.

Ham steaks are great served straight with no condiments, but you can also pass mustard at the table or any glaze you'd serve with a baked ham, though I personally think the savory or tangy ones work better with grilled ham than the sweet ones.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Mustard Grilled Steak

It hasn't been so warm the last week, but the sunny days have lured us outside nonetheless and tempted us to the grill. I really liked this simple steak preparation with spicy mustard. I used a chili pepper spiked mustard that we have, but a regular spicy brown mustard would work as well - use something grainy if you have it, and add a dash of cayenne or chili powder if you like. The steak, of course, comes from our share of a grass-fed cow from Freeman Farm. Leftovers makes nice steak sandwiches the next day.

Steak(s)
Spicy mustard
Chili powder or cayenne (optional)
Salt (coarse salt if you have it)
Freshly ground pepper

Take the steak(s) out of the fridge about an hour before you plan to cook it (or any amount of time you have, up to an hour). Pat it dry and place it on a plate. Spread both sides with mustard, about 1/2 tsp for each person's serving. Add a dash of chili powder or ground cayenne if you'd like a little extra chili pepper kick. Sprinkle both sides generously with salt and add a bit of freshly ground pepper. Let sit until ready to grill.

Grill the steak over high heat, 4-5 minutes a side for medium rare. Let it rest for a few minutes when done, then serve hot.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Greek Spinach Pasta with Lamb or Goat Sausage and Chickpeas

Still too early for asparagus, but local spinach is not too hard to come by. I keep finding new ways to puree it with pasta because it's about the only way I can get my four-year-old to eat the stuff. And it also makes for some tasty sauces. This one has a Greek flair, enhanced by the use of lamb or goat sausage. I used goat sausage from Hillman Farm.

1 lb cut pasta such as penne
Olive oil
1 large shallot or small onion, minced
1/2 - 3/4 lb spinach, stemmed and rinsed
1 tsp dried oregano
1 Tbsp lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste
1 lb lamb or goat sausage, casings removed
1 1/2 - 2 cups cooked chickpea

Cook the pasta in a large pot of salted boiling water. Drain and toss with a little olive oil when done. While the pasta cooks, prepare the rest of the dish.

Heat a little olive oil in a large skillet. Add the shallot or onion and saute for about 2 minutes. Add the spinach and saute over medium-high heat until wilted but not mushy. Remove from heat and puree in a food processor. Add the oregano, lemon juice, a splash of olive oil, and salt and pepper and blend until smooth. Set aside.

Reheat the skillet and cook the sausage, breaking it up as you go. Add the cooked sausage and chickpeas to the pasta, then stir in the sauce until everything is well coated. Taste and adjust salt and pepper if needed. Serve hot.

Serves 4-6.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Lamb Stew with Barley, Spinach, and Beans

Early spring is a good time to eat your greens. Local farmers are still producing them in greenhouses, and probably ramping up production as the weather warms up a bit. But if you still have a stash of root vegetables left, you could use some of them here, too. Balsamic vinegar and a handful of raisins add an unexpected sweet and tangy note to the stew, which plays nicely off the lamb and nutty barley.

Olive oil
1 lb stew lamb, cubed
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar, more to taste
Chicken stock
Salt and pepper to taste
1 1/2-2 cups cooked kidney beans
1/2 cup barley
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 lb spinach, stemmed and coarsely chopped

Heat a little olive oil in a soup pot or Dutch oven. Add the lamb and brown well over high heat. If there's a lot of excess fat, pour it off. Add the garlic and onion and saute for 2-3 minutes. Add the 2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar and enough chicken stock to generously cover what's in the pot. Deglaze the bottom of the pot with the liquid, scraping up all the stuck-on browned bits. Add salt and pepper, kidney beans, and barley, and lower the heat to a simmer. Simmer the stew for 45-60 minutes, until the lamb is tender.

When the lamb is tender, add the raisins and spinach and simmer another 5 minutes or so. Taste and add another splash of balsamic vinegar if desired. Serve hot.

Serves 4-5.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Chipotle-Garlic Braised Pork Chops

These are easily in the running for the best pork chops I've ever made. I've been playing with the idea of braising them for a while now, something I've not tried before, because when pan frying or grilling I often have trouble hitting the right level of doneness; so often they seem to go from not quite done to dry. Braising solves that problem by finishing the cooking process in a flavorful sauce so the chops stay moist.

This is best made in a braising pan, but a large skillet will do the job as well. Just make sure to use a nice heavy pan for good heat distribution.

Try serving these with Sorrel Mashed Potatoes, Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes, or Goat Cheese Polenta.


3 good sized pork chops
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp chili powder (not cayenne, something milder)
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Olive oil
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, seeded and minced
2 cups chicken broth, warm

Get out the chops an hour or so before you plan to start cooking them, if you can manage it. Combine the salt, chili powder, and black pepper and mix well. Sprinkle this all over the chops and let sit for a while.

Preheat your braising pan over medium heat for a few minutes to get it nice and evenly hot. Add just a little olive oil and turn to the heat to medium-high. Place the chops in the pan, close together but not overlapping. Cook without touching for 2 minutes, until nicely browned on one side. Turn over and cook on the other side for another two minutes. Remove the chops to a place.

Add a little more olive oil to the pan, then add the garlic and onion and saute for 2-3 minutes. Add the chipotle and the chicken broth. Deglaze the pan, scraping up all the browned bits stuck to the bottom, which will be full of flavor. Simmer the sauce over medium heat until reduced somewhat, then add the chops back in. They should be no more than about halfway covered with liquid. Turn to the heat to low and simmer for 10-12 minutes, turning the chops once halfway through. Remove from liquid and let rest for a few minutes, then serve.

The braising liquid is delicious, if slightly spicy. Spoon a little over each chop when serving, and if desired, also over mashed potatoes, polenta, or whatever other accompaniment you have.

Serves 3.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Sorrel Mashed Potatoes

The first, small harvest out of the garden is pretty much always baby sorrel leaves, with the first chives ready a few days later. These are both perennials that come up first thing in the spring. Sorrel has a bright, lemony flavor that works both raw and cooked. I put some in the salad and chopped a bit more for the potatoes.

2 lbs potatoes, cubed (peeled only if desired)
1-2 Tbsp butter
1-4 Tbsp milk
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup finely chopped sorrel leaves

Cook the potatoes in a pot of salted boiling water until tender (about 15-20 minutes). Drain and return to the pot. Mash well, adding the butter, milk, salt and pepper as you go. When the potatoes reach the desired consistency, stir in the sorrel. Serve hot.

Serves 4-6.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Pasta Soup with Ham and Beans

A simple, peasant style soup, quick and easy to throw together when you don't have much in the fridge. Feel free to substitute cooked sausage, a bit of bacon, or even shredded chicken for the ham. And you can always toss in more vegetables if you like, maybe carrots or tomatoes or perhaps some chopped greens at the very end. A Parmesan rind would also add nicely to the flavor if you have one in the freezer.

Olive oil
8-10 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 1/2 - 2 cups cubed cooked ham
1 1/2 - 2 cups cooked white beans (or kidney beans)
Chicken stock (or ham stock if you have it)
8 oz. uncooked pasta (shells, gemelli, or macaroni are good)
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat a little olive oil in a soup pot. Add the garlic and onion and saute for 3-5 minutes, until tender. Add the ham and beans and enough stock to generously cover, bearing in mind you'll need to cook pasta in the liquid. Bring to a boil, then add the pasta and cook until tender. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serves 4-5.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Ham with Apple Cider-Dijon Glaze

Every so often I send my husband to the farmers market on his own, and I never know what surprises he is going to bring home. A couple months ago it was a 5-lb ham. Delicious no doubt, but not exactly something to cook up on a Tuesday night for the three of us. So it's been sitting in the freezer ever since. Yesterday I decided it was time to use it and we invited some friends over to help with the eating. I made a tangy-sweet glaze to go with it from some of the season's last apple cider.

1 5-6 lb bone-in cured ham
2 cups apple cider
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
1 cup brown sugar
1-2 tsp ground cayenne (optional)

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Place the ham flat side down in a roasting pan. Make criss-cross cuts about 1/2-inch deep across the top and sides. Place the ham in the oven and bake for 30 minutes.

While you start cooking the ham, put the glaze together (all remaining ingredients) in a wide bottomed pan such as a braising pan or Dutch oven (this is important; it will not reduce fast enough with a regular saucepan).  Whisk them together, bring to a boil, then simmer until much reduced. Turn off the heat and let it sit; it will thicken somewhat.

After the ham has cooked for the first 30 minutes, pull it out and baste it with some of the glaze. Return to the oven for 20 minutes, then add more glaze. Cook the ham for another 20 minutes, then insert a thermometer into the middle of the meat. The ham is done when it reaches 135-140 degrees. Try not to overcook as it will start to dry out. If it needs more time, glaze again and return to the oven until done. (For a larger ham it may take 2 hours or so total.)

When the ham is done, let it rest for 10 minutes or so, then slice and serve. Pass remaining glaze at the table as a sauce.

Serves 8-10.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Rosemary Spinach Pesto

A delicious winter pesto with fresh greens! Keep some potted rosemary around to have fresh rosemary whenever you want it

1/2 lb spinach, washed and large stems removed
2 Tbsp rosemary leaves (removed from stems)
2 cloves garlic
1/4 - 1/3 cup grated Parmesan
1/4 - 1/2 cup olive oil
1 tsp lemon juice
Salt to taste

Combine all ingredients in a food processor and process until very smooth. You may wish to add the oil a little at a time until you reach a desirable consistency.

Makes enough to serve with one pound of cooked pasta.